Tempe’s Brick and Barley finally got its big moment on national television this past weekend.
The latest episode of Spike TV’s reality show Bar Rescue focused on the local spot and its transformation from a badass biker joint and lowbrow haven into a more upscale neighborhood establishment. Or in the words of owner AJ Hunter, it turned a 15-year-old juvenile delinquent into a Christian sorority girl.
The episode, which was entitled “Momsters Ball,” had all the trademarks of a Bar Rescue experience. Host Jon Taffer laid into the owner and her daughters, Xatia and Diva, in strident fashion for their shortcomings in running the place, including having a walk-in refrigerator with a broken door, running a spaghetti wrestling night, or serving ultra-greasy food. (Xatia was unfairly on the receiving end of much Taffer’s fury for supposedly having a dour expression, better known as a "resting bitch face," most of the time.)
In the end, however, the episode followed the show’s basic formula of redemption: Important lessons were learned, wrongs were righted, new drinks were crafted, the décor got a substantial renovation, the place was rechristened with a new name, and profits soared. And everything was wrapped up in a neat, hour-long bow.
However, as is often the case with reality television (which doesn’t necessarily reflect actual reality), all is not necessarily as it seems. That is to say, not everything that happened during the filming of the episode back in January made it onto the show.
New Times spoke with general manger Whitney Wingfield after the episode’s airing for the inside scoop regarding what viewers didn’t see. And we learned a few things ourselves.
There was a lot more drama … and yelling
Conflict and interpersonal drama are the major hallmarks of Bar Rescue, whether it’s Taffer hollering at the staff or employees screaming at each other. (Let’s face it, such things always make for good television.) And while Brick and Barley’s episode had a lot of it – including Taffer getting in some choice digs, as always – Wingfield says there was plenty of drama that we didn’t see, especially between owner AJ Hunter’s daughters Xatia and Diva. “There was a lot of animosity between the sisters; some of it was huge,” Wingfield says. “Both of 'em walked out at one point, and that wasn't filmed at all. I was surprised they didn't show that.”
We also didn’t get to see Wingfield getting browbeaten by Taffer, which she says got quite heated at times and also included a rather strange taunt involving her pet. “Me and him got into a verbal screaming match. He asked me why I worked here and I was like, ‘My family, that's why I work here.’ And he was like, ‘Your cat's going to be in the pound because you don't know how to run a bar!’ I'm like, um, okay. I thought for sure that would be shown.” Last we checked, Wingfield’s kitty hasn’t wound up in the pound.
Things weren't necessarily as bad at the bar as the show portrayed
Just like any other Bar Rescue episode, “Momsters Ball” started out with a rundown of just how bad things were going at the establishment, including broken equipment, financial woes, and substandard service. And while Wingfield admits that Baseline Sports Bar certainly had its issues, things weren’t necessarily as they appeared on the show. “Yes, the bar could do better, but I don't think it was to the extremes that they said it was,” she says. For instance, the place has had a pretty dedicated fanbase among bikers and the neighborhood crowd for years.
So about that lack of cranberry juice…
Another memorable moment from the episode involved one of Taffer’s crew ordering a cranberry and vodka only to learn from Hunter that wasn’t a drop of it in the joint at that moment. According to Wingfield, there was a perfectly acceptable reason why: Bar Rescue had taken over the premises with scores of tents, trucks, and technical equipment. As a result, the bar staff was unable to get any of their regular deliveries.
“We didn't have any cranberry juice because the whole [Bar Rescue] production team took up the whole parking lot and we couldn't get any deliveries,” she says. “My boyfriend works for a catering and bartending company, and I was like, we need juice because we don't have any. And [Bar Rescue's] security wouldn't let him into the parking lot, or anybody that weren't their actors or part of the staff.”
The spaghetti wresting kept going after Jon Taffer’s intervention
One of the most dramatic moments of the episode came when Taffer took major umbrage at the fact the bar featured two female employees dukeing it out in an inflatable kiddie pool filled with spaghetti. After observing what was happening via a video feed, the Bar Rescue host grew quite disgusted, stormed the place, and angrily forced the staff to put a stop to the pasta-covered smackdown.
According to Wingfield, however, the staff still held matches that night, even after Taffer’s meltdown. "We just kept on going,” she says. “Men are drinkers and that's what they wanted to see, so I have to cater to my crowd. I'm not going stop something and let a bar full of people leave if they're here and spending money because of it."
The stress test was crazier than what you saw
Another hallmark of the show is putting each bar through its paces during an intense “stress test,” which features upwards of 200 customers during a single evening, in order to gauge the staff’s abilities. The Baseline Sports Bar staff had some issues during their experience, to say the least, including falling considerably behind in getting drinks to customers. In their defense, Wingfield says she feels the test doesn’t reflect the normal volume of customers the establishment typically handles during its rush periods.
“It was so unrealistic, it's not even funny. Even when we have high-volume events, not everybody all comes in at once. So literally, people were in line almost in line all the way down to Someburros at other end of our plaza, waiting for hours and hours just to get in,” she says. “So, you could imagine being completely empty and then all of a sudden, 200 people walk in the door, all at once. And they all want to eat at once and they all want their check at once. And you couldn't pour anything else except for the items we said they had to have on the menu.”
Bar Rescue’s producers apparently learned from their last visit to Tempe
This wasn’t the first time that the show has attempted to rescue a bar in Tempe. Back in 2013, an episode focused on transforming Rocky Point Cantina, a rundown Mexican-style beach bar and heavy metal concert venue, into a Cuban-style eatery called Havana Cabana. Only problem is, Bar Rescue’s producers reportedly didn’t secure the proper permits from the City of Tempe beforehand to conduct the rehabilitation. And it set off a chain of events that resulted in the establishment’s closure several months later after Tempe officials clamped down on the place.
Bar Rescue’s producers apparently had all their ducks in a row this time around, as Wingfield (who was familiar with the Rocky Point Cantina situation) told New Times that they had all the necessary permits in place prior to giving her bar its makeover.
They haven't kept the some of the new menu items or specialty cocktails
Don’t try to order a plateful of pork schnitzel during your next visit to Brick and Barley. Ditto for the ultra-sweet specialty cocktail known as “The Currant Twist.” Both items, which were created by the Bar Rescue team, have been jettisoned from the menu since the episode was filmed for a variety of reasons.
Wingfield says they ditched the schnitzel because they “didn't know where to get it from the supplier.” Plus, they wanted to emphasize more of the other new menu items like the soft-baked pretzels. The two cocktails that were crafted by the Bar Rescue staff, on the other hand, didn’t prove to be all that popular. “They weren't really fan favorites,” she says. “We tried them out with some of our regulars and they really didn't like ‘em. We can’t really be selling a specialty cocktail for $9 each.”
Employees hate the new uniforms
Near the end of the episode, Brick and Barley’s staff were presented with new maroon-colored uniforms to wear, which appear to consist of a low-cut shirt (the place is sort of a breastaurant, after all) and some rather short shorts. According to Taffer, servers wearing red uniforms tend to get better tips. Too bad most of the employees hate wearing the get-ups, says Wingfield, who preferred it when they were allowed to dress more casually.
“Um ... the uniforms are awful,” she says. “We all hate them and we're forced to wear them by order of AJ. She wants to follow like Jon's direction and make us wear them. And our customers are used to us picking whatever we wanted [to wear]. That's one of the reasons why they come in, because of the casual atmosphere.”
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There are several remnants of Baseline Sports Bar around the place
While the signage hanging outside and etched on the windows says “Brick and Barley: A Neighborhood Bar,” there are still a few traces of the place’s previous identity lurking about the establishment. Metal cutouts of the Baseline Sports Bar’s old logo, featuring the slinky silhouette of a buxom female in-between the letters “BS,” hang in the bathroom. Many regulars wear T-shirts that used to be sold at the bar that are emblazoned with its old slogan, “Represent Motherfucker.” In many ways, it feels like some of the joint’s regulars are still holding onto the ghost of their old haunt, which leads us to our next item…
The regulars hate all the changes
There some people who not only dislike any sort of change, but also abhor it quite vehemently. And you can count some of the longtime patrons of Baseline Sports Bar, all of who detest all the changes that occurred after Bar Rescue’s visit to the place, among this group. “A lot of regulars were really angry about it. They didn't like the change, they didn’t want it to change, and they liked it the way it was,” Wingfield says. “We lost some customers because of it. They feel it's way too high-class now.”
Maybe it's time to consider bringing back the spaghetti wrestling.